Dragons returning to London pagoda

By WANG MINGJIE | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-11-13 18:20
Dragons returning to London pagoda

Carved wooden dragons once again adorn the outside of the 18-century pagoda in Kew Gardens. [Photo/China Daily]

The unveiling last week of the first in a series of dragons that will adorn the Great Pagoda at London's Kew Gardens marks a significant step forward in the conservation project aimed at returning the landmark to its original appearance.

The restoration is sponsored by the House of Fraser department store, which is part of the Nanjing-headquartered Sanpower Group, and will see 80 dragons decorate the pagoda.

The restoration draws on similarities between the Kew pagoda and Nanjing's Porcelain Pagoda, which is believed to have inspired English architect Sir William Chambers when he designed Kew's Great Pagoda in the 18th century.

Chambers visited China twice, in 1743 and 1748, and designed the Great Pagoda for the British royal family at the height of Europe's craze for chinoiserie. He is also thought to have been influenced by prints he had seen of the pagoda in Nanjing.

Xiang Xiaowei, the cultural counselor at China's embassy in London, witnessed the unveiling. Xiang said:"This project is a great example of Sino-UK collaboration and it also demonstrates Chinese companies' willingness to take on more social responsibilities while going global."

Frank Slevin, executive chairman of House of Fraser, said:"This project is really the heart of the cultural link between the UK and China, so we're very happy to be able to sponsor the restoration of this project."

He said he hopes it will be a striking representation of what the link between China and the UK can develop and deliver.

Pagodas are revered in traditional Chinese culture as repositories of relics and sacred writings, and as places of contemplation. However, the Kew pagoda was not designed to be a religious monument. It was intended to give the British people a window into Chinese civilization.

Believed to have been commissioned by Princess Augusta, the mother of King George III, the 50 meter, 10-story tower was famously adorned with 80 brightly colored wooden dragons. It offered one of the earliest and best bird's-eye views of London.


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